Thought Leadership From Industry Peers

Last Updated: 17 December 2019
Role of Innovation Consultant in Industry 4.0
Scott Nugent | CCO Ignitho Technologies About the author Orginally Published: 17 December 2019

Who is an Innovation Consultant?

The multifaceted consulting industry ranging from strategy consulting to social media consulting consists of stalwarts who excavate every part of a business. These consultants identify areas of concerns for businesses, minimize these areas of weakness and strategize how to bring in the maximum output from the areas of strength. 

Innovation as a term had started gathering widespread usage only by the start of twentieth century and is now part of each industry. Every company is implementing innovation led practices in their growth strategies as well.

An Innovation Consultant is one of the more recent roles which the consulting industry has developed because of the disruptions innovation is creating for multiple sectors and industries. Historically, Innovation, for the big players, has always been treated like a top secret lab that was protected from everyone except the researchers in their lab coats. But the fast pace of business and the ever-changing consumer demands have forced these companies to strategize on innovation to stay ahead of the curve or be quickly replaced by the competition. For example, Blockbuster being replaced by Netflix regarding the entertainment industry.   Or how companies like Apple, Tesla, and Amazon are pushing their boundaries to meet their customer expectations. Companies like Nokia, Philips and General Electric have faltered with innovation despite having a focused innovation strategy.

Innovation Consulting and Industry 4.0

The industrial revolutions that mapped the progress of human kind are a combination of some of the momentous events in history. Starting from the commercial steam engine during Industry 1.0, moving to harnessing electricity in 2.0 and finally ending up with the computers in 3.0. With the advent of interconnected technologies taking over our daily lives, we are already witnessing Industry 4.0. 

This rapid pace of digitization and innovation in enterprises is signaling towards the rapid adoption of these interconnected technologies eyeing rapid transformation. To keep up the pace with the rapid adoption of these interconnected technologies, the old methods of R&D labs and siloed approaches in innovation is going to hurt these enterprises. In the current scenario, for a majority of companies, innovation is considered a painstakingly long process and if an innovative product or service emerge from these innovation pods, most of them fail. 

Faced with adversities like lack of productivity, along with increased competition and shrinking innovation lifecycles, enterprises should no longer exclusively rely on internal R&D labs. According to a recent survey conducted by IBM and BCG, enterprises have placed internal R&D eighth out of nine, far behind the general employee population, business partners and customers in terms of important sources of innovation. 

These adversities and dissatisfactions point towards a tremendous opportunity for enterprises to use innovation consultants as the pivotal point for a new, more focused and rapid innovation process. An innovation consultant who could effectively communicate, collaborate and share information to effectively meet the innovation needs for the enterprises, could make the difference.
 

What should one look in an Innovation Consultant?

When one decides to onboard an Innovation Consultant (it can be a person or an organization), there are some key factors that should be considered. 

  • Revisit entrepreneurial spirit - Enterprises should identify Innovation Consultants who could help them revisit their entrepreneur self. These Innovation Consultants should help the enterprises to regain the unique value and differentiation these companies theoretically possessed when they started. This would enable these enterprises to sustain their growth while constantly innovating for their customers
  • Create a vision for customers - In order to stay ahead of their competition, enterprises should work alongside the Innovation Consultants and create a roadmap for the services and products being offered to customers. The plan is to achieve these goals before the competition does.
  • Identify and nurture ideas - The Innovation Consultant, along with the enterprises (specifically the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) or Innovation Lead), should work to identify and qualify relevant ideas based on the effort and capital required for the Return on Innovation (ROI).

Apart from the key factors which are mentioned above, enterprises need to analyze some of the key points when approaching an Innovation Consultant.  This next section touches upon some of those factors.

What should be the approach in innovation consulting?

Innovation for enterprises is not just adopting best practices and cost-effective methods, there is also a mindset change which is required from the entire organization if they are to successfully implement an effective innovation strategy through a consultant. Below mentions some of the points:

  1. Keep the innovative edge : A common trend among enterprises who start out as innovative organizations is that they lose their innovative edge when they move from a startup to a scaleup. These companies lose focus of their vision as more and more effort go into keeping business as usual. Innovation Consultants can help enterprises to align their organization goals around innovation to retain their innovative edge.
  2. A supportive culture : An enterprise without ample encouragement in innovation initiatives is a recipe for disaster as far as innovation is concerned. An organization that gives importance to more conventional methods of Business as Usual would most probably have an adverse environment for innovation. An innovation consultant would provide an outsider view and could suggest improvements to nurture an innovative culture. 
  3. Ideas : Enterprises are often bombarded with a plethora of ideas. Many times, the problem comes in while filtering these ideas and finding enough time to nurture these ideas. Innovation Consultants can help these enterprises to better communicate and collaborate on the best ideas.
  4. Market Intelligence : To stay relevant among the competition, an enterprise who finds it hard to implement innovation might try to become the sheep and follow the herd. Instead these enterprises should work with Innovation Consultants to gather market intelligence to narrow down on decisions based on relevant data.

Conclusion

Finding the right Innovation Consultant, at the right time, can be very crucial for companies looking to maintain that innovation edge.  When working with a person/company to help with your innovation, it is best to partner with a company who lives, eats and breathes innovation.   You want to work with someone whose company has built an innovative environment that compliments your short and long term goals.

Scott has over 25 years of experience in the information and technology business. He started as an analyst at TransUnion. Read More

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